review comment

[PHIL G4501] Epistemology

Departments: Philosophy

Professors: John Collins and Jeffrey Helzner

Syllabi

Jeffrey Helzner 2008 Fall T 4:10 PM- 6:00 PM Download

May 07, 2013

Helzner, Jeffrey Silver_nugget
[PHIL G4501] Epistemology

Professor Helzner is brilliant at what he does, I'm sure. I think he would be a great professor for a logic course, or for probability or rational choice, etc. I felt like in this class, however, he was not very effective. For one thing, I was not happy with the readings on the syllabus. The class was taught almost exclusively out of a textbook, each class's reading simply following the last two readings from Huemer's "Epistemology." Some of the excerpts from that book were interesting and important works, but others were not. In a survey course, I prefer not to read some obscure 20th century analytic philosophers, especially since we didn't read even a short excerpt of Kant! I also found his lectures to be hit-or-miss. Sometimes, especially towards the beginning of the course, we would really dig into one of the subjects of our readings and explore all of its possibilities. Prof. Helzner is extremely thorough and when we stayed on topic, this was extremely helpful. Other times, though, this thoroughness would be directed at totally irrelevant exercises. Frequently, students would raise their hand with, in my opinion, stupid questions that Helzner would take almost the whole lecture responding to. We also spent an inordinate amount of time on digressions about probability or technology-related scenarios. I eventually stopped going to lecture. I think the class was a useful exercise but hopelessly disappointing.

Workload:

Four short assignments and a 10-12 page final paper. Readings for each class 5-20 pages, usually pretty straightforward.

May 02, 2010

Collins, John
[PHIL G4501] Epistemology

This man is hilarious, engaging, intelligent, and knows how to lecture. He clearly enjoys what he does and I enjoyed listening to him lecture.

This course went rather slowly, belaboring details, but Collins could make almost any subject at least somewhat interesting.

There is rarely any reading or syllabus, and there are opportunities in class for discussion.

He quoted a student as saying to him, "Now that I've completed your course, I know even less than when I began", and pointed to that as one of his proudest moments. He follows a slightly-combative, discussion-based pedagogical style which I enjoyed but may turn some people off.

He invented the word "comundial" on the fly, meaning, "in the same world".

Workload:

Very light. Tough but fair grader.

October 08, 2006

Collins, John
[PHIL G4501] Epistemology

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Early in the semester (Fall 05), Collins regaled the class with the story of a professor he once had in Australia. This professor would like to go on walks in the bush with no map, plan, compass, or anything, get lost, and find his way out again.

This, Collins said, is how he liked to teach.

I don't think I could imagine a worse class. There was no syllabus and no plan and my blood boils when I think about it. Epistemology is such a fascinating field of philosophy and Collins butchered it. Terrible.

April 28, 2004

Helzner, Jeffrey Silver_nugget
[PHIL G4501] Epistemology

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Helzner is a very knowledgeable, smart professor. He enjoys the socratic style of teaching - sitting in a chair posing questions and poking holes in answers. That's a great technique but he doesn't often go beyond it and present lecture material to supplement the questioning. That means you won't often have a comprehensive treatment of a concept or material in class, which you may or may not prefer.
He is a brilliant professor who respects answers and students. His give and take in class is always generous and enjoyable. His math background makes him vulnerable to describing everything in math terms and symbols.
Excellent professor if you like his approach. Clearly brilliant.

Workload:

Regular readings, midterm and final paper. Not too heavy but challenging material and enjoyable to think through.

May 21, 2003

Collins, John
[PHIL G4501] Epistemology

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

...For all the reviewers who think he is a "brilliant philosopher" try taking a real philosophy course with a real philosopher not someone who simply tries to speak and act like one. If you want to do well in his class, you have to sort out what's really going on from his mess and actually learn something. To Collins: try thinking from now on and not going out of your way to create non-sense out of something intelligble. The former not the latter is what philosophy is all about.

Workload:

A few writing assignments, a paper, midterm, and final. All easy if you have a brain.

May 07, 2003

Collins, John
[PHIL G4501] Epistemology

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Ah, Collins. It’s like being in class with Socrates. He will construct a beautiful argument over the course of days, meticulously leading you by the nose through the finer points of modal logic or what have you, and then, just as you are feeling good that you can actually claim to “know” something, He counterexamples himself and sends you back to the drawing board. But isn’t that just the way theory of knowledge is? You just know more about why you know nothing. As for Collins’s presentation of it, it could use some organization. But he more than makes up for that in charm.

Workload:

Midterm, Final, Final paper. There were supposed to be a number of short writing assingments, but they fell by the wayside. Collins is a fair grader of philosophical content, though he could care less about how many references to Kant you can make in a page. Midterm and Final require actual original thought (gasp).

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL G4501: Epistemology John Collins 2010 Spring R / 9:00-10:50 AM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL G4501: Epistemology Jeffrey Helzner 2008 Fall T / 4:10- 6:00 PM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL W4501: Epistemology Anthony Corsentino 2006 Fall MW / 11:00-12:15 PM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL W4501: Epistemology John Collins 2005 Fall TR / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL W4501: Epistemology-Thry of Knowledge: Epistemology Jeffrey Helzner 2004 Fall MW / 6:10- 7:25 PM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL W4501: Epistemology-Thry of Knowledge John Collins 2003 Spring TR / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1